A court case in early 2018 provides a case study in why a company’s criminal screening policies must sometimes be waived as a reasonable accommodation for a disabled person. The case was Simmons v. T.M. Associates Management, VA – February 2018.
1. A community resident wanted her adult son to move in with her;
2. It was alleged that the son had a misdemeanor conviction for indecent exposure and the community denied his application on that basis alone;
3. The son asserted that his mental illness caused the act resulting in his conviction;
4. The mother asked the complex for an accommodation and reconsideration of the decision due to the mental disability;
5. The community refused, arguing that the Fair Housing Act (FHA) does not require a reasonable accommodation for persons convicted of a crime. The community argued that housing providers may issue blanket denials of housing to those convicted of crimes, regardless of an applicant’s disability status – even if the crime derived from the disability. This was an elemental error in the respondent’s argument and indicates a significant lack of understanding relative to fair housing law. While the FHA does not require an accommodation when the person requesting the accommodation represents a clear danger to the property, residents, or staff, there is no blanket exclusion from reasonable accommodations for persons with criminal records.
The court denied the community’s request to dismiss the case.
1. While the FHA does not always require an accommodation for a crime committed due to a disability (and certain drug and sex offender crimes need never be accommodated0, each case must still be considered on its own merits.
2. The son’s misdemeanor conviction for indecent exposure does not make him a direct threat to the health and safety of others.
Lesson’s from this Case
The primary lesson to be learned from this case is that owner’s/manager’s cannot have a blanket policy of rejection of either applicants or live-in aides based on criminal records.